NB Housing’s Flax Foyer is a support centre which provides safe, affordable accommodation with access to training, education and employment opportunities for young people who have been homeless or are at risk of homelessness. The Foyer won an award for its participation in The Bytes Exodus 500 which gives vulnerable young people the chance gain new skills, experiences and training.The £72.8m Supporting People (SP) programme underpins vital supported housing services for around 20,000 vulnerable people in Northern Ireland. It allows them to live independently and helps prevent hospitalisation, homelessness or premature admission to residential or nursing care.
SP is also vital for supporting older people, those with physical and learning disabilities and in preventing/addressing homelessness.
It also provides essential bespoke support for other vulnerable groups including those with mental health concerns, looked after children in care, those with drug and alcohol issues, and victims of domestic abuse.
Supporting People saves the public purse in Northern Ireland £125.05m per annum (as of 2013/14 when SP funding was £65.6m). Every £1 spent on the SP services saves the public purse
£1.90.1 This rises to £11.18 for initiatives helping victims of domestic violence.
Instead of SP working to a continuing 5% cut on accommodation-based service there needs to be an increase in overall funding. The current funding of Supporting People and continued enforcement of the 5% direct funding cut threatens the well-being of many vulnerable people.
In order to enhance quality of life, prevent more serious social problems, and to make significant preventative savings for the public purse, NIFHA recommends:
1) Maintaining existing services
It is vital that the current level of provision is safeguarded while the programme is reformed. This will require in-year funding to sustain services in deficit, some at serious risk of closure, and a commitment to inflationary increases for all services until the new Strategy is implemented. We estimate this to require £5m per annum from 2020/21.
NO NEW SOCIAL HOUSING FOR PEOPLE WITH SUPPORT NEEDS HAS BEEN COMMISSIONED FOR FOUR YEARS, DUE TO CONSTRAINTS IN SP FUNDING.
2) Additional funding to meet existing need
The lack of investment in new supported social housing has created a crisis for vulnerable groups, such as young adults with learning disabilities who are being denied supported living homes in the community. Trusts are being forced to use very expensive private alternatives that offer poor value for money.
£8m year on year capital funding is required to urgently address this shortfall and supplement the Social Housing Development Programme in 2020-21 and 2021-22.
This additional accommodation would provide a further 100 supported living homes each year, matched with an additional £2.5m in revenue funding per annum for housing support services [through SP] to be delivered in this new accommodation.
3) Increasing number of floating support places
There is a need to help more people with support needs to live independently in the community, including the majority not living in purpose-built supported accommodation. This is why the Housing Executive and the Department for Communities are committed to expanding ‘floating support’ services. However, the constrained budget has limited scope to expand these services to meet that need. We recommend a further annual investment of £2m to provide 800 new places for floating support services, especially for vulnerable older people and young adults.
- A £17.5m increase in the SP budget would cover existing services, address current unmet need, develop new accommodation and cover anticipated future.
- It is essential that the SP budget continues to be ring-fenced and funding should be index linked.
Featured image, above right: Housing Associations like Alpha ensure residents have plenty of opportunities to maintain contact with people of all ages.